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  • Writer's pictureCharlene Sims, Journal staff

Commission sends dog shelter's permit request back to planners

Updated: Nov 27, 2023

The Linn County Commission on Monday, Nov. 6, decided to put the fate of Regina's Rescues back in the hands of the county planning commission. (Journal file photo)

By Charlene Sims,

MOUND CITY – After hearing from Planning and Zoning Director Darin Wilson, Regina McClellen from Regina’s Rescue, and Tom Kemper, a neighbor to the no-kill dog shelter, the Linn County Commission decided to send McClellen’s application for a conditional-use permit (CUP) back to the county planning commission for changes.

Wilson presented McClellen’s application for the permit to the commission on Monday, Nov. 6. The application was unanimously approved by the planning and zoning commission in October.

Wilson gave a timetable of the events that led to McClellen’s application for a CUP in Feb. 2023.

• The application first came to the planning board on Feb. 14 but was tabled until July 11 until Regina’s Rescue license was renewed by the Kansas Department of Agriculture (KDA). McClellen had been operating without a CUP for eight years and when she came in to get a building permit, she was informed that she needed the CUP and applied for one. According to McClellen, she had maintained a state license throughout the eight years.

• On July 11, the CUP application request was tabled by the planning commission until Oct. 10 because, while McClellan had a state kennel license, it expired on Sept. 30. Ben Lancaster, an inspector KDA, had been in touch with Wilson and explained to him that it was likely that license would be revoked because of issues during his inspections. He told Wilson that it was up to the legal department of his agency to make a decision.

• On Oct. 10, McClellen presented the planning commission with a copy of a new license and the commission approved the application with specific conditions.

Conditions set on the CUP were that the kennel would maintain a state license, limit all animals on her property to 50, complete the shelter she was building, complying with state regulations within the building, and with sanitation for indoor runs by Oct. 10 of 2024, comply with setback regulations, allow the county to inspect periodically to ensure compliance, renew CUP in one year and acknowledging that the county will document complaints from neighbors regarding the site and will take those into consideration in any renewal application or revocation.

Wilson told the commissioners that he had recommended denial at the planning commission meeting because McClellen’s licensed had expired and the state inspector had said that Regina’s Rescue was going before the state’s legal department to determine if its license should be revoked because of the number of unsatisfactory inspections the shelter had received.

Unsatisfactory inspection a stumbling block

Wilson and the planning commission were not aware that the kennel had received an unsatisfactory on her inspection on Oct. 9. The unsatisfactory inspection left her with a $200 fine but able to operate until a decision was made by the KDA’s legal department. As of Oct. 25 when Wilson was last in touch with Lancaster there was no opinion from the state yet about revoking McClellen’s license.

Wilson also told the commissioners that in his investigations, he had visited the kennel several times and did not hear the noise and did not find any odor problems.

In his staff report on the CUP, Wilson had presented that there was concern about noise bothering the neighbors but also that the use of the kennel could benefit the community by taking in stray animals.

At Monday’s meeting, Kemper spoke about the noise that came from the kennels. He said that he was speaking for most of his neighbors.

He said that when the kennel first started there were 10 dogs and now it has gone to 100 dogs. He said the conditions had not gotten any better. He asked that the number of dogs be limited and questioned what McClellen was using for money.

He said that people often sent him information about McClellen’s requests to for financial help and supplies for the kennels.

He said that the taxes from the 30-foot-by-40-foot shed she was building would not make up for the taxes lost to people who were not building expensive homes in the area because of the noise.

“I bet you I can get 100% of the neighbors to agree with me on this,” he said. “If we lower the number of dogs, that takes care of the noise problem, cures everybody’s problem. It’s gone.”

McClellen answered that she had 52 dogs and all shelters asked for donations and that her rescue had a lot of followers.

Commissioner Jason Hightower asked McClellen about her state permits and why she had received an unsatisfactory rating.

McClellen said that outdoor shelters in rural areas often had minor problems that resulted in unsatisfactory inspections. The two problems that gave her an unsatisfactory report last time was that a wire was loose on the fence and there was rust on one of the kennels.

She said she had never had complaints from surrounding landowners until a new neighbor complained in February. The neighbor she was referring to was not Kemper, who was already living in the area when McClellan opened her shelter.

Wilson said he had been there during one inspection and learned that issues that had been brought up several times by the inspector were windbreaks for the animals and piles of feces.

Suggestion to reduce number of animals

McClellen told the commissioners that corrections had been made and the animals were protected from the wind and she now had extra help so that when feces were removed from the pens they were quickly disposed of.

McClellen said because of constant complaints by the neighbors, she has had numerous inspections during the past year. Previously she said that allegations made by her neighbors to the state were determined to be unfounded.

County Counselor Gary Thompson told the commissioners that one of the conditions that could be put on the CUP was that it was contingent upon having a state license.

Thompson also suggested that McClellen, in the meantime, could moderate her numbers as a sign of goodwill.

Thompson said the commission’s options were to approve, reject, or send it back to the planning commission and ask them to consider making specific revisions.

Thompson emphasized that the commissioners could not make revisions if they didn’t first send it back to the planning commission.

Kemper said that everyone’s problems could be solved if the number of dogs was reduced, specifically the barking and the need for as many donations.

Hightower asked how the county would know if the rescue’s license was revoked. Wilson and McClellen both said that the county would be notified.

McClellen said that if she had more than 50 dogs, she would take them to another pound. She said that with the rising price of dog food, adoptions were down.

Wilson explained that if the county did not require a conditional use permit with a limit, the state would allow 19 personal dogs on top of the 100 approved by the license.

He said that the reason the planning commission decided on a total of 50 animals of all kinds was that the building held 40 dogs and McClellan had personal animals who were not candidates for adoption, according to McClellen. That was because of previous abuse.

McClellen also pointed out that she often had four or five dogs that local sheriff’s office requested she care for. Those dogs would stay at the shelter for a brief time.

An example of this was when there was a recent traffic accident and there were two dogs in the vehicle. One dog was killed and the other injured and the person involved was taken to the hospital.

McClellen said they were contacted and picked up the injured dog and took it to the veterinarian. They then kept the dog while the dog and the owner both recuperated. When the owner was able, he picked up the dog.

The commissioners decided to send the CUP back to the planning commission to review at its Dec. 12 meeting. Planners could then address any changes that needed to be made. Another consideration the commissioners might request is that the planning commission table the CUP until the state’s legal department made a decision.

Thompson said he would draw up a letter to the planning commission so that the commissioners could go over it before it was given back to the planners to make changes. Thompson also told the commissioners that the commission would have the option of tabling the CUP if it came back to them before a final decision was made by the state.

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